Although MAD began its existence in 1952, the magazine did not begin reporting detailed annual circulation figues in its "Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation" until the March 1962 issue (which reports data for an annual period ending in 1961). 

There is a time lag involved in reporting circulation. For example, the figures published in MAD No. 5 (February 2019) are based on a filing made on October 19, 2018 and reports circulation for the preceding 12 months starting in 2017 and ending in 2018.

To best represent the circulation for any given year, the numbers reported in the list are for "Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months" rather than "No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date". In addition, although the label has changed over the years, only the figure for "Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation", "Total Paid Distribution", or "Total Paid Print Circulation + Paid Electronic Copies" is used. The "Total Number of Copies (Net Press Run)" is not used because the latter figure includes copies of MAD that are unsold and/or returned by vendors.